Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cat Hell

“Make him stop,” Mr. Wonderful said yanking the duvet over his head.  “Please.”

It was 2:30 AM and our new cat, Jackson, had jumped on the bed, thwacked his tail against Mr. Wonderful’s forehead and was kneading my pillow with his paws.  Forget serial killers and clowns, nothing’s scarier than opening your eyes to sharp, hooked claws two inches from your peepers.  And, nothing’s more annoying.

I dumped Jackson to the floor but he leapt up for three repeat performances before the alarm clock sounded. 

We’d only had him two weeks and already this five year-old male had taught me a lot about his species.  1) Cats sleep all day.  2) Cats sleep all evening.  3) Cats keep you up all night. 

In other words, cats are jerks.

Since Jackson was still adjusting to us and our home, we’d followed the advice of the Kitten Rescue volunteers and kept him in one room closed off from the rest of the house so as not to overwhelm him.  Unfortunately with my cousin’s kid, Matt, still bunking in the guest room, the only space available for the cat was our bedroom.  Jackson and our chronic lack of sleep were driving Mr. Wonderful and I toward a career in serial killing--each other.

Just when I’d decided to save my marriage and sleep on the sofa, my sister arrived. 

She surveyed the situation and announced, “Your cat has a problem.”
“Yeah, he’s not a dog,” Mr. Wonderful said with a yawn.
I valued my sister’s diagnosis because she knew cats—she owned eight felines, six of which lived outdoors controlling her farm’s mice population.  She continued, “The problem is Jackson makes his own schedule.”
“Because that’s how cats are.  They’re independent,” I said.
“Then why did you get a cat?”
“My question exactly,” Mr. Wonderful said boring his eyes into me over the rim of his third espresso.
“Jackson’s doing everything on his time,” my sister said.  “If you want him to be part of your family, you have to get him on your schedule.  When you eat, he should eat.  When you’re awake, he should be awake.  For at least some of the time.”
“I can’t do that.  I can’t even get him out from under the bed.”
“Follow me,” she said.

First we collected every picture frame I hadn’t hung and stacked them like Legos, one on top of the other.  We slid them under the bed, filling every square inch of space, which forced an unhappy Jackson out into the open.  Then we swung open the bedroom door to freedom.  Instead of going out to explore the rest of the house, the cat slunk to the opposite side of the room and crouched beside his litter box. 

“We need to force him to leave this room,” she said.  I lugged his litter box and food and water bowls to the kitchen.  Still all day, he remained in our bedroom.  That night when we slipped into bed Jackson disappeared into the living room and didn’t bother our sleep for eight hours.  Eight heavenly hours!   

The next morning my sister, Mr. Wonderful and I sat at the table eating crepes when our laughter was punctured by the sound of chewing kibbles.  On the floor next to our table, we saw Jackson hunched over his newly placed food bowl.  He was out of the bedroom. He was eating while we were eating.  He was with us.

My sister, Mr. Wonderful and I exchanged smiles.  For the first time since moving in I felt like our house was full of family.